There is new hope the strike by more than 12,000 faculty at Ontario's 24 colleges—now into its third week—could be resolved soon.
It was revealed late this morning that both sides in the dispute have agreed to return to the bargaining table tomorrow.
That's the right decision.
The faculty, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, is seeking more full-time positions and an increased role in academic decision-making. The College Employer Council, meanwhile, has offered a 7.75-percent salary hike over four years while promising to improve the conversion of contract faculty to full-time positions.
The provincial government, in the meantime, has resisted calls to intervene in the dispute—arguing it wants to respect the collective bargaining process.
That's all fine and good, except when a definite absence of collective bargaining has left some 500,000 students in the lurch and fearful their academic year could be lost.
To their credit, the students haven't been taking this lying down. Eight student union presidents, including Jodi Afonso of Confederation College, met with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Advanced Education and Skills Development minister Deb Matthew last week, with the bargaining chairs from both sides also in attendance.
A “Students First Rally,” organized by the College Students Alliance, was planned for today at Queen's Park.
As well, students have collected more than 100,000 signatures through an online petition demanding a tuition refund for days lost due to the strike.
The impact on students is very real. Besides the stress of having their semester in limbo, there's potential housing problems and added expenses should the school year have to be extended while international students may face visa problems.
And trades students eligible to receive employment insurance during their training are unable to do so because the colleges are on strike.
Fortunately, both sides seem willing to not let the clock tick away any longer. Let's hope they put the students first by bringing this dispute to a quick end.